English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm Irish, and hence speak Hiberno-English. Here is a photograph of some sliced bread:

sliced bread

The topmost slice of this (that's crust on the end), is called "the heel". Is this meaning for "heel" understood in British English?

share|improve this question
It's the heel in American English too. – jimreed Aug 16 '11 at 17:25
@rory -- it's the "doupie", do you use that one? – Joe Blow Aug 16 '11 at 20:16
Another interesting more American one is "butt-end". Also for the, well, butt-end of perhaps a ham or other roast meat. (The last, or perhaps first, slice.) – Joe Blow Aug 16 '11 at 20:20
I'm English and when I first met my Irish wife this one caused confusion / hilarity, especially when combined with the Irish term 'pan' for a loaf of bread e.g. "can you get me the heel from that pan" – tinyd Aug 17 '11 at 9:13
No, we don't know the term "doupie". Although "butt-end" would not be used, a person might reason it out. Also this question is inspired by a similar mixed marriage. – Rory Aug 17 '11 at 14:06

Further to what others have said, I (growing up in London and York) was familiar with heel to mean that slice, but it wasn’t common — the usual term for that slice was the crust. (So crust had a dual meaning for us — both the outside of the bread in general, and the slice at either end that consists mostly of crust.)

share|improve this answer
I would certainly agree with crust. Lived most of my life in North-East England and have never heard the term heel before and wouldn't have had a clue what you were talking about. Straw-poll of those nearby suggests it's NOT a commonly understood phrase (out of a dozen people, only an Irishman had heard it before) – SteveM Aug 16 '11 at 18:18
For the record PLL, I have never ever heard the doupie called the "crust". (i.e., have never, ever, heard the dual meaning you describe.) So perhaps, very regional? – Joe Blow Aug 16 '11 at 20:18
Interesting — yes, perhaps! And I in turn have never heard doupie — where does that term come from? – PLL Aug 17 '11 at 2:08

Yes, it is understood in British English too; one of the meaning of heel reported by the NOAD and the OED is the following:

a crusty end of a loaf of bread, or the rind of a cheese.

share|improve this answer
I would say it's only known in BE as an American import. I never heard it in northern English before living in the USA – mgb Oct 20 '11 at 4:17
Well, OED has it in Piers Plowman 1362, a bit early for an American import... – GEdgar Jun 30 '12 at 17:18

I wouldn't use it myself, but I have heard it - though in a slightly different sense. I wouldn't understand "the piece of a sliced loaf that happens to be the crust" so much as "an unsliced loaf from which all but a couple of slices have been cut".

share|improve this answer
Interesting. They have unsliced bread in England? Next you'll be telling me it isn't white and as squishy as Play-Doh either. :-) – T.E.D. Aug 16 '11 at 22:40
I had no choice but buy a sliced loaf on Sunday, because that was all they had left before they closed (yes, our mediaeval laws mean that even 24-hour stores have to close for most of Sunday). But it's a long time since the last time I did. – Colin Fine Aug 17 '11 at 13:33

I'm Irish but my parents are English. I'd certainly understand heel, but in our house it's called the dobie end. I have no idea what the origin of that phrase is.

share|improve this answer

I am Irish-American and both sets of my grandparents (raised by Irish immigrants) and my parents referred to the ends of a loaf of bread as the humbo.

share|improve this answer
I tried Googling for references but didn't find any :( – Mari-Lou A Apr 5 '14 at 18:59

60% of the US who are ancestors of European immigrants use the term "heel" for the end of a loaf of bread. It shows this amount on the US Dialect survey map. I found it on Google. Especially NJ and NY have used this word the most.

share|improve this answer
Welcome to EL&U. The question is about terminology in British English, not in the U.S. If you are unfamiliar with Stack Exchange, please note that this is not a discussion forum, but a Q&A site; the site tour and help center will offer additional guidance. – choster Jul 22 '14 at 18:49
Do you mean "descendants" of European immigrants? It would be useful to show some link to current British-English usage. – Andrew Leach Jul 22 '14 at 21:47

I understand the term heel but then, although growing up in London, I came from Irish parents.

share|improve this answer
This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. – choster Jan 19 '14 at 21:26

I call it the heel, and I'm sure I learned that word from my mum who was born in Durham England. She 'came over' as a child with her parents and 3 sisters in 1920 or thereabouts, and ended up in Pennsylvania. I think all my cousins and nieces and nephews know the word 'heel' as it relates to a loaf of bread.

share|improve this answer

protected by choster Jul 22 '14 at 18:46

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.